The Food and Drug Administration has called for stricter restrictions on liquid nicotine after an upsurge in poisonings reported by emergency rooms and poison centers nationwide. The agency said in an online posting it is considering whether “it would be appropriate for the protection of the public health to warn the public about the dangers or nicotine exposure” and “require that some tobacco products be sold in child-resistant packaging.”
Liquid nicotine is popular in demand these days, and mainly used to refill e-cigarettes – a fast-growing market encompassing hundreds of products and an estimated $2.1 billion in sales. While tobacco and smoking is on the decline, E-cigarettes have a sudden appeal for youth and smoker who want to experiment.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices which heat liquid nicotine to produce an odorless vapor. Many brands are making this an attractive option by introducing new feature flavors, such as mint, cherry or coffee – very much like flavored Hukkah.
The FDA, using a 2009 law, was able to control some aspects of cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products. The agency can now restrict advertising to youth, require warning labels and evaluate new tobacco products for their health risks.
However, dangerously, e-cigarettes and other liquid-nicotine products do not actually contain tobacco, they are not covered by the original law.
The FDA is also taking note of other new tobacco products being introduced into the market – like dissolvable nicotine strips, lotions, gels and beverages.
Anti-tobacco campaigners applauded the FDA proposal:
“We’re pleased that the FDA is taking this step, but this is not a replacement for quickly issuing a final, strong deeming rule that regulates all tobacco products and addresses flavors and marketing,” said Susan Liss, executive director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a printed statement.
The FDA now plans to collect comments from public for 60 days on more than two dozen questions, including:
— what language to use on any nicotine exposure warnings
— whether to use graphic warnings about nicotine exposure
— whether child-resistant packaging should be required for products besides liquid nicotine
Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that nicotine is harmful to the developing brain. And e-cigarettes could be a new way of introducing kids to nicotine, they warn.
The number of high school students who have tried e-cigarettes tripled last year — to more than 13 percent — while traditional teen smoking hit a new low, according to recent figures from the CDC.